Why does my stomach hurt after I eat?
This is a very common question.
This problem presents itself with an annoying set of symptoms.
Maybe you were hoping that a couple of crackers could help curb the pain.
But, every time you try to eat something, it gets worse.
Many factors can cause an upset stomach after eating.
It could be something simple, like eating too fast or too much. Or it could be an underlying health problem that triggers serious pains after eating.
If you want to know more about why your tummy hurts after eating, you are in the right place. The guide below can help.
What does stomach pain after eating feel like?
Stomach pain after eating is typically centered around the abdominal area. And it feels like dull aches or cramps in the tummy.
Mild cramping and dull pains usually go away on their own. You can feel better after doing a poo.
They are not serious. The body just needs time to process the food.
But, if you experience pain every time you eat, and the sensations are accompanied by burning, aching, twisting, or stabbing pain, it could mean you are dealing with a health problem.
The intensity will vary based on what causes the pain when digesting food.
For example, if there is food intolerance, then you can develop an unpleasant physical reaction to that particular food you are eating.
The tummy feels bloated and in pain, which tends to occur a couple of hours after you consume the food. The symptoms could also come with diarrhea, itching, and skin rashes.
Should I be worried if my stomach hurts after eating?
Occasional cramps and stomach pain are nothing to worry about. You might have digestive problems or hormonal changes.
Occasional stomach cramps after eating are likely from heartburn or indigestion. You can treat this with over-the-counter medication.
If you ate too much or too fast, and now you are constipated, then this is nothing serious.
But, if you feel uncomfortable after eating for a very long time, and the pain persists for a couple of weeks, you might be dealing with a chronic condition.
So, it’s best to talk to a specialist. The frequent stomach burns after eating might require treatment.
Why does my stomach hurt after I eat?
Stomach pain is one of the most typical reasons patients visit the emergency department. The incidence rate is about 10% to 12% around the globe. (1)
Many factors can make the tummy upset after eating. Various extra-abdominal and intra-abdominal diseases can lead to stomach pain.
Sometimes, it could be caused by something bad you ate, such as an expired product or very spicy food.
But, if the stomach troubles are persistent, then it could be from lactose intolerance, IBS, gallstones, or others.
Here is a list of causes that can help you understand why you have a sore stomach after eating.
Less serious causes for digestive issues after eating include:
- Eating too fast
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food sensitivity
- Lactose intolerance
- Stomach virus
- Celiac disease
- Food poisoning
More serious causes of tummy ache after eating include:
- Bowel blockage
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Food allergies
- Abdominal aortic aneurism
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Cancer (such as stomach cancer, bile duct, liver, pancreas, immune cells, or gallbladder cancer)
When patients ask, “why does digestion hurt” or “why am I getting stomach pains after I eat food,” we say that it is best to get to the root of the problem and understand the symptoms.
For example, if the pain is bearable or mild and causes uncomfortable bloating, then it could be due to excess gas.
But, if the sharp pain affects the lower right side of the abdomen, this could be a sign of appendicitis.
Gallstones, on the other hand, cause sharp stabbing pains in the upper right abdomen or in the middle of the stomach.
When talking about the causes of stomach aches, we should point out the importance of proper fluid intake. People fail to notice that something as simple as dehydration and heavy alcohol consumption can cause severe stomach pain. (2)
Lack of fluids makes it harder to restore normal bowel function. In order to compensate, the colon pulls water from the rest of the body to create softer stools. So, you end up with soft stools, stomach pain, and cramps.
That’s why it is not uncommon to feel abdomen pain after eating if you don’t drink enough water throughout the day and you eat super dry foods.
While heavy alcohol consumption can make the stomach create more acid than normal, causing intestinal inflammation and organ dysfunction.
So, it is important to evaluate the patient’s gastrointestinal complaints, eating, drinking habits, pre-existing medical conditions, medication use, family history, and so on. (3)
Types of stomach pain
People can experience short waves of cramping abdominal pain after eating and constant dull or aching pains. The nature of stomach pain is divided into different categories. These are:
Somatic (parietal) pain
This type of pain occurs from irritation caused by a chemical reaction, infection, or inflammation. It is a constant and localized type of pain.
This type of pain occurs due to a stretching of the walls of the large bowel, small bowel, bladder, stomach, gallbladder, or rectum.
Overeating, for example, forces the stomach to expand to accommodate all that food. It is a type of pain that stops and starts abruptly.
This type of pain occurs when the brain can’t localize the trigger of the discomfort. So, it perceives the pain in a different area that is distant from its actual source.
Health problems like abdominal migraine, diabetic ketoacidosis, peptic ulcer disease, and pelvic inflammatory disease can cause referred stomach pain.
When it comes to cramping after eating food, people often experience visceral or somatic pain. If the belly hurts after eating, it’s important to give the body time to process the food and supply the system with non-irritating quality nutrients.
When to see a doctor
Stomachache after eating doesn’t always require treatment. Especially if you ate too much and feel constipated or gassy. But, if you are feeling uncomfortable, track your symptoms.
Call a doctor if:
- The stomach ache after eating is becoming severe and sudden.
- The pain lasts 1 week or longer, or if it doesn’t subside in the next 24 to 48 hours.
- You have been feeling bloated for 2 days, and it is causing some discomfort.
It’s best to ask a healthcare provider to advise you on how to manage the problem. Be sure to see a doctor if you have diarrhea lasting more than 2 days without improvement.
Excessive thirst and severe rectal and abdominal pain might need treatment. Doctors could suggest some prescription medicines depending on what’s causing the problems.
How do I stop my stomach from hurting after I eat?
To stop the stomach from feeling uneasy after eating, avoid hard-to-digest foods. Greasy and spicy foods, for example, can increase the odds of painful digestion after eating. This is especially true if you overindulge in pizza, hamburgers, French fries, etc.
The intestines hurt after eating if you go overboard with acidic and fatty foods. So, it’s a good idea to reduce these food choices and replace them with fruits and veggies.
Other ways to avoid cramping pains after eating are to:
- Drink more water
- Eat slower
- Eat less processed foods
- Be physically active
- Identify your food allergies and intolerances
Some of the most classic food intolerances and allergies come from foods like nuts, wheat, gluten, fish, milk, eggs, etc. You can manage this by removing a certain type of beverage or food from your diet.
But, if the painful cramps after eating affect your quality of life, talk to a doctor. They might suggest you get treatment or do some testing.
What to do if you’ve overeaten
That feeling of fullness can be overbearing, especially after eating a lot of sweets and drinking a lot of caffeine. If you have abdominal pain after meals because of eating too much, don’t beat yourself up and try to relax. Once the discomfort subsides, go for a walk.
Stimulating digestion through a leisurely stroll is a practical way of curbing the digestion hurts.
According to research institutions, physical activity can be an effective option for easing stomach bloating. Then, take a sip of water to flush out that excess salt you most likely had with your meal. (4)
Water can help with bellyache after eating since it keeps you from getting constipated. But, if you plan to use carbonated drinks to quench your thirst – don’t do it. You are swallowing gas that fills up the digestive system, which can make you even more bloated.
If you still have some food left, leave it for later or give it away. The best way to manage intestinal distress after eating too much is to know when to stop. Don’t keep your calorie-packed meals in the fridge if you know you can’t resist them.
Many people can feel uncomfortable after eating. They can experience pain and bloating.
Different causes can lead to abdominal discomfort after eating. Some are less serious, while others require treatment. Most can benefit from healthier lifestyle changes.
If you feel like you have a sensitive stomach after eating, try to eat easy-to-digest foods and avoid overeating.
But, if the gastric pain after eating is from an underlying health condition, like gallstones or celiac disease, talk to a specialist. They can then help you manage your symptoms.